The terms “local into local” and “distant network signals” refer to the origins of broadcast network signals and the residential locations of viewers receiving those signals. Distinctions between local and distant, as well as the eligibility to receive each type, refer to satellite reception rather than cable because cable isn’t concerned with over-the-air transmissions.
Local Into Local (LIL)
A local-into-local signal is one that a satellite company provides to subscribers in a station’s given market. These include local affiliates that serve designated market areas (DMAs) of the major broadcast networks. The Nielsen Company defines the DMAs, which are based on ZIP code and county of residence. A DMA could be a large city that also encompasses outlying areas, or it could be a collection of smaller, adjacent towns. Whatever the size of the market, with LIL, the satellite provider delivers signals from local affiliates to the local population.
It’s important to note that if a satellite company does provide LIL service, it must provide all available local channels. This is sometimes called the “carry one, carry all” provision. However, if a network has more than one local affiliate for a DMA, the satellite service only has to carry one of those stations.
Distant Network Signals (DNS)
A distant network signal is one that originates outside of a station’s DMA. In most cases, the law prohibits satellite providers from delivering broadcast feeds that originate in distant markets. For example, a company cannot provide a signal from a Chicago affiliate to viewers in St. Louis.
An exception to this rule exists for viewers who reside in areas where signals from local stations aren’t strong enough to view with an over-the-air antenna. These areas are considered to be “unserved.” Satellite providers use a computer model to determine whether a location and address fit the exception, and if they do, the company can then provide DNS service. If an area doesn’t fit the exception, a waiver from local affiliates becomes necessary due to a “no distant where local” provision.
Qualifying for a DNS Waiver
When an area does not have an unserved designation, a satellite company may apply to local broadcast affiliates for a waiver that allows them to provide distant signals to affected residents. This is entirely up to the satellite provider. As a side note, commercial trucks and recreational vehicles with permanently attached satellite dishes may also receive a waiver in some cases.
When a satellite company denies DNS eligibility and local affiliates deny a waiver, consumers have a right under federal law to receive a signal-strength test that may disprove the accuracy of the satellite provider’s computer model. Consumers must arrange and pay for the test themselves, but if it proves insufficient signal strength from local stations, the satellite provider can then add DNS service; however, they may charge extra for it. Interested viewers should contact their satellite provider for more details.
Note: Grandfathered subscribers, meaning those who had paid subscriptions prior to the 2004 LIL and DNS laws taking effect, may still be eligible to receive distant signals without a waiver.
DNS Service Guidelines
If DNS service is granted, whether by eligibility, waiver or test, viewers can receive up to two distant network feeds each day for each broadcast network. The one limitation is that viewers cannot receive programming that airs earlier than the same programming airs on local stations within the same time zone.